In Destiny's Shadow
In Destiny’s Shadow brings a surprisingly good series to a strong conclusion. The final book of the Family Secrets: The Next Generation continuity, it manages to tell an affecting stand-alone love story while delivering the payoff this six-book series deserves.
Reporter Melina Becker is on the trail of a criminal mastermind known as Titan. The FBI recently shut down his nationwide drug operation, but the man himself managed to evade capture. After months of following the investigation, Melina pursues a lead to Santa Fe, New Mexico. One of her contacts claims to have information on Titan’s whereabouts, but when they meet, the man is gunned down in front of her. Melina escapes harm herself, thanks to a mysterious stranger who appears out of nowhere to pull her out of danger.
Anthony Caldwell has his own, very personal reasons for going after Titan. Decades ago, the man was known as Benedict Payne, the scientist whose mad experiments with genetic engineering resulted in the birth of Anthony and his siblings. Each of them was born with paranormal abilities. Anthony himself has the power to control energy, manipulating electricity and power sources with his mind. Titan wants to use the siblings’ abilities for his own gain and attempted to capture each of them over the last few months. To protect his family, Anthony plans to stop the man once and for all.
Anthony wants to know what information Melina has on Titan. She isn’t about to give up her exclusive, especially to a stranger. When he promises to keep her in the loop, they form a reluctant partnership to find Titan. As they travel together in search of clues, their relationship rapidly evolves into a physical attraction, and then something more. But their growing feelings might just put them in more danger than they know.
The original 12-book Family Secrets series ended with a whimper. That certainly isn’t the case here, as this miniseries goes out with a definite, very satisfying bang. This may be the last of a six-book arc, but what surprised me was how well it worked as a stand-alone story in its own right. Even though I’ve read all the books, I read so many other books between them that I often don’t remember what happened last, so it can be as hard for me to jump into the latest installment as it would be for a new reader. That wasn’t the case here. While it’s clear that this is part of a larger series, the author constructs her story so that it doesn’t feel as though the reader is jumping in late. She focuses the story on Melina and Anthony, smoothly introducing the backstory in ways that feel relevant to them. There’s no huge overload of exposition, and while the story will be richer for those who’ve read the entire series, it doesn’t come across like the reader is missing out if they haven’t. It’s very nicely done.
As she did in her entry in the original Family Secrets series, Weaver delivers a love story with a lot of heart between a strong heroine and somewhat tortured hero. Anthony is a loner whose sense of responsibility toward his siblings has always taken priority over everything else. He is willing to do anything to protect them, no matter what the personal cost. He’s a very sympathetic character who’s carried a heavy burden on his shoulders, and as their relationship evolves, Melina manages to chip away at the walls he’s built to around himself and work her way into his heart. She’s a likable character, but somewhat less interesting. Her backstory is more typical, and she’s saddled with a pointless subplot involving her editor, who’s proposed. She doesn’t love him, and as the book begins, she continues to delay giving him an answer. This element is wrapped up so early I didn’t understand why it had been included at all. It was just an unnecessary distraction and something we’ve all seen too many times before.
Anthony’s power is very interesting, and it’s cool to see how it impacts the romance (and their sex lives). The story is well-plotted, with only a few sections that drag a tiny bit. One story thread that’s been running throughout the series is finally and effectively explained. The villain, who’s been more and more menacing in recent books, proves just how diabolical he truly is. In the end, the climax provides a satisfying conclusion to both this story and the entire series, with a nice amount of both excitement and emotion.
While the original Family Secrets series fell flat, the Next Generation spinoff was well worth my time. The six-book story arc was both well-structured and well-executed, introducing some intriguing characters and telling some interesting stories. Whether this is the first or last book you’ve read in the series, In Destiny’s Shadow is a good example of this series at its best.